RaisingAwareness.org

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Face of Afghanistan (10) - Fleeing Home




Millions of Afghans had to flee from their home and leave behind their possessions, their families, and their friends. Today, Afghans are the second largest group of refugees and internally displaced persons in the world - after Palestinians. Over a quarter of the country’s population has sought refuge outside of the country prompting the United Nations to declare Afghanistan the major site of human displacement in the world.

During the war with the URSS the number of Afghan refugees abroad escalated dramatically with as many as 2.5 to 3 million in Pakistan and another 1.5 million in Iran alone. About 150,000 were able to migrate permanently to other places including the United States, Australia, and various European countries.

In addition, there were over one million internally displaced persons in Afghanistan in the same period. The majority have now returned to their place of origin, but the southern and western parts of the country still hosted in 2005 approximately 200,000 of them.

Since the fall of the Taliban, over 1.8 million Afghans have returned from Pakistan and 600,000 from Iran. Yet as of 2005, an estimated 3.4 million continued to remain abroad.

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The Face of Afghanistan (9) - Born to Die Young




Afghans can expect to live less than 45 years which is at least 20 years lower than all of neighboring countries and 6 years lower than the averages of the Least Developed Countries. It is also what the western world expected to live a century ago.

Infant and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Twenty percent of the children die before the age of five, and one woman dies from pregnancy-related causes every 30 minutes.

The main causes of death among children are diarrhea, respiratory tract in-fections, and measles.

In the midst of this mayhem, Afghans are ironically lucky in only one thing: their ignorance prevents them from realizing that over 80 percent of these deaths are preventable. Knowing they are dying unnecessarily would perhaps be an even heavier burden to bear.


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Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Face of Afghanistan (8): A Life of Fear




Imagine a day of fear. Now imagine a life of it.

Very few places in the world can compare to Afghanistan when it comes to insecurity and threats to people’s lives: pervasive and abject poverty and destitution, extremely poor health and nutrition, massive population displacements, a degraded environment, and widespread distrust in dysfunctional state institutions. This is the background on which human rights are the victim of the repression perpetrated by armed groups, ethnic discrimination, political intimidation, and abuses related to land, movement, and participation rights.

This is Afghanistan today. Right now while you are reading this page, the people of these images are trying to survive.



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Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Face of Afghanistan (7): Broken Promises and Wrong Choices



Had we invested in supporting the development of Afghan’s civil society, we might have prevented terrorism to be harbored here and reduced the odds of events such as September 11. And, of course, we would have spared Afghanistan decades of hell.

Afghanistan is still waiting for us to deliver on our promises. In a famous UN session decades ago, the rich world pledged to spend 0.7% of their national income for direct development aid. We pledged to spend money for the target country and in that country. Business investments and loans were supposed not to count as they are simply money that will give investors a yield over time.

Only a handful of donors have achieved that. Despite what the public opinion may have been led to believe, experts estimate that the US has been contributing only 0.15% – a gap of, in 2005 dollars, over 50 billion dollars per year. The US accounts for half of the missing development budget - Germany, the UK, Italy, France together for 20%, and Japan for another 20%.

Western societies should ask themselves if their claims of working for international peace and justice are not just hypocrisy. At any rate, it looks like our most prominent contribution is a military one – one which has amply demonstrated that, while sometimes necessary, it is absolutely insufficient for nation-building. The US alone pumps over 400 billion US dollars per year into military expenses, trying to build a military might that would defend it from the most dangerous consequences of underdevelopment. Not only does this means that the US government is spending a very low amount of direct aid as a percentage of its economy's size, but it also means that it is spending thirty times more in military expenses than in direct development aid - by far the highest ratio of any developed country. Others do not fare much better, especially if you consider that they also "ride" the investment of the US. In Afghanistan well over 90% of the money that the US-led Western Coalition has spent has gone into the military campaign, not the reconstruction effort.

The best way to consolidate the peace process is to build more hope into people, hope that today’s peace will bring tomorrow’s welfare. If Afghanistan is to be convinced that it should now play with new rules, we must show that new rules do bring some prosperity into everyone's home. We are wasting precious time, and by not having yet brought tangible material prosperity to ordinary Afghans outside Kabul, we are failing to convince them that democracy, markets, and peace are good for them.

There is a time when more of our money is spent more effectively in rebuilding a society rather than just imposing a truce through military control. That time is now.



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